Brief Battles brings couch co-op party games back to consoles, but it doesn't offer much for those without friends who want to play in their pants.
Brief Battles by developer Juicy Cupcake is a party game for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One that focuses on battles and platforming, with players using super-powered underwear in order to defeat their foes or to help them collect enough items in order to claim victory.
The general theme of Brief Battles is based around platform brawling, with each player being able to empower their character by grabbing magical underwear that gives them special attacks, such as being able to shoot bolts of fire or transforming their character into a steel ball that can crash into enemies. The platform aspect of Brief Battles is tied to some unconventional characteristics and controls, which must be mastered in order to succeed.
Brief Battles is focused on offering couch gaming for up to four players and it features four multiplayer modes at launch - Classic Battle (slay your opponents in order to win points), Knockout (be the last player standing in order to win), Hold the Gold (track down a pair of golden underpants that appear in the level, first player to hold them for twenty cumulative seconds wins), and Underpants Collector (grab as many pants as you can within the time limit).
It's in these modes that Brief Battles is at its best as it offers frantic fun for groups of friends. The addition of random superpowers keeps things interesting as players try to slay their friends, while also trying to survive against the harsh environment present in most stages. The stages play a huge part in Brief Battles (unlike a lot of similar games) and the placement of pits and spitting acid can turn a fight against other players into pitched battles of survival against the arena itself.
There are single-player modes in Brief Battles for those who cannot muster a group of friends to play in their pants. The single-player modes include Underpants Collector (grab all of the pants in the stage within the time limit while avoiding hazards), Tighty Whitey Targets (break all of the targets spread around the stage within the time limit), Butt-em-up battles (a horde mode against waves of enemies), and Endless Butt-em-up (an endless horde more). The two Butt-em-up modes can be enjoyed with a second player. Sadly, the single-player offerings can be finished within a few hours and they mostly exist to offer content in the game for the times when Brief Battles can't be played with other people.
The control scheme of Brief Battles will be familiar to anyone who has played a modern Super Mario Bros. title, and everything from double jumping and super jumping to having the ability to crash quickly to the ground (which leaves you unable to act for a moment) is included. The major difference with the Brief Battles characters is that they can stick to the walls and ceiling, which takes some getting used to for those used to modern platform games. Once the Spider-Man-like qualities of the Brief Battles cast become comfortable, players will quickly see how useful the stickiness actually is, especially in regards to hiding from opponents, as the player can maintain a fixed position on a wall and protect themselves from the enemy attacks.
The aesthetics and soundtrack of Brief Battles are simple, with the exception of the characters being cute blobs that bounce around the environments. The simple approach works in a fast-paced party game, as the player doesn't want to be distracted when facing opponents. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has proven how distracting it can be when too many visual effects appear on the screen (as is the case with its accursed smoke obscuring the field) and Brief Battles avoids these issues by keeping things basic.
The biggest flaw with Brief Battles is the lack of an online option as it's only possible to play locally with friends. It's admirable of Juicy Cupcake to focus on the local multiplayer experience in this age where it's so often ignored by everyone except Nintendo, but the ability to play with friends or strangers over the Internet would have been hugely beneficial to Brief Battles and would have made it far easier to recommend.
Brief Battles offers a specific kind of experience and it does its job very well. The couch gaming experience has fallen out of favor with a lot of developers, who choose to focus on online gaming over everything else, and Brief Battles helps to fill that gap in the market. It's just a shame that there isn't an online component or a beefier single-player campaign, as they would have given Brief Battles a lot more playability outside of its main niche. As it stands, Brief Battles aims to do one thing, but it does it incredibly well.
Brief Battles is available for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on May 7, 2019 with a Nintendo Switch port coming later in 2019. A digital code for the PlayStation 4 version of the game was provided to Screen Rant for the purposes of this review.